Portsmouth council considers ‘action’ over Solent Wheel reappearance

The big wheel taking shape at Clarence Pier
The big wheel taking shape at Clarence Pier
Benjamin Peace

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THE owner of Clarence Pier has defiantly brought back a 110ft-high Ferris wheel after ‘proving’ Brent geese hitting the ride is not a problem.

The Solent Wheel attraction in Southsea was dismantled in 2016 after a year of operation.

Natural England had warned birds could collide with the wheel’s mobile pods.

But now Jill Norman, owner of Clarence Pier, has brought the wheel back – and is hoping the attraction will be open by Easter.

Planning chiefs had granted permission for the ride to be set up and open – except for between October 1 and March 20 each year so it did not affect the migration of wintering birds.

Portsmouth City Council is now considering ‘what action’ it may take.

Speaking to The News, Mrs Norman said she had a three-month bird survey carried out showing bird strikes were not a problem.

She said: ‘We’ve done a study and it proves that we don’t have a problem.

‘Obviously we’ll wait and see what the council’s got to say.

‘We’ll have to see whether they’re going to help us or not.

‘We need something quite large to promote ourselves.’

Mrs Norman hopes to open the wheel to punters between March and October.

She added: ‘It’s something that people want, we’ve done our bit to provide (the study) for them.

‘This is our home town, but if it doesn’t go our way we’ll have to re-think

‘We’ll wait and see what the council’s reaction is.

‘We did everything that they requested at the time.’

Photos were taken of the wheel being constructed on Tuesday, with it illuminated and in action by evening.

The attraction has not yet opened to the public.

Councillor Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture at the city council, said there had not been any changes to the planning permission previously granted.

Cllr Symes said: ‘As far as I’m aware planning permission was given for the wheel to go back up on March 20.

‘This was in line with the advice from Natural England and I’m not aware of any planning process to change those dates.’

Brent geese have previously thwarted planning bids.

In 1993, then-Pompey chairman Jim Gregory received planning permission to build a new stadium on the St John’s College playing fields in Farlington.

But a year later, a planning inspector threw out the St John’s plan because of problems over transport, but mainly because it was a grazing ground for Brent geese.

In a statement about the reappearance of the Solent Wheel, city solicitor Michael Lawther said: ‘We are aware of this matter and we’re currently considering what action we will take.’

Readers on The News’ Facebook page had a mixed reaction yesterday, but many supported the return of the wheel to Southsea.

Maz Redman said: ‘Great news, let’s hope it’s here for good.’

Glyn Davies said: ‘I don’t claim to be an expert but I’m fairly sure they (the Brent geese) can spot obstacles and fly round them in the same way other birds do.’